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People Who Don’t Want to Rock the Boat May Overindulge at Super Bowl Parties

Feb. 3, 2012 -- People pleasers may want to steer clear of this weekend’s Super Bowl parties in order to avoid a dietary fumble.

A new study shows people who have a strong desire to please others tend to overeat in social situations, even if they’re not hungry.

They’re also more likely to indulge in foods they’d normally avoid, like fatty snacks and sweet desserts.

"People pleasers feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable," says researcher Julie Exline, PhD, a Case Western Reserve psychologist, in a news release.

According to the researchers, saying no to Buffalo wings or pizza at a party is hard for everyone when others are eating them. But people pleasers are especially sensitive to peer pressure and want to match what others are eating.

In addition to spoiling their diet, researchers say peer pressure-induced eating comes at an emotional cost for people pleasers.

"Those who overeat in order to please others tend to regret their choices later,” says Exline. “It doesn't feel good to give in to social pressures."

Eating to Please

In the study, researchers looked at the effect of social pressures on eating in two different situations involving about 100 undergraduate students. All of the participants completed a survey beforehand that indicated how strong their desire was to please others.

In the first situation, the students were offered a bowl of M&M candies from a stranger, who they thought was another participant in the study. Researchers measured how much candy they took and then questioned the students about how much they ate and why.

The results showed people pleasers tended to eat more if they thought their peer wanted them to eat.

In addition, people pleasers had a greater desire to match the quantity their peer ate. They were also more likely to say they wanted to make the other person feel comfortable.

"They don't want to rock the boat or upset the sense of social harmony," says Exline.

Researchers say these effects were especially significant because the situation -- a brief exchange with a stranger -- was one in which social pressure should have been minimal.

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